How to Stay Married in 4 Easy Steps

With the divorce rate being what it is, it’s a wonder that anyone expects to stay married for the long haul. Probably one reason divorce is more prevalent now than it was 50 plus years ago is because there is not as much stigma about divorce. Back in the day, divorce was avoided at all costs. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean couples were happier. So what is the first step in staying happily married?

  1. Marry the right person. Marriage is not something to take lightly and it should not be viewed as an end goal because marriage is a process.

If you are a relatively stable person, your best bet for success is to find a similarly stable person. It is tempting to be a hero and try to turn someone’s life around for the better but it seldom works. It also starts the relationship off on an unequal footing. Find a person with a similar world view. If two people see reality very differently, they will not be able to connect to each other. It’s like trying to give someone directions but you don’t know where they are starting from. It’s confusing and frustrating.

What are some bad reasons to get married?

  • You’ve been dating a while and marriage is the next natural step.
  • This person is probably the best I can do, or he/she is better than nobody.
  • Your biological clock is ticking and you want children.  
  • Grandma wants to see you get married and she’s getting old.
  • Your family is putting a lot of pressure on you.
  • Etcetera, you get the idea.
  1. Be courageous – being your true self makes you feel vulnerable and that is ok, in fact, it is good. Vulnerability is honest and it leads to a deeper connection with the people who care about you.

It’s natural and healthy to want to be your ‘best self’ when you meet someone you like but if your behavior is very different from the person you truly are than you are being a bit deceptive. The person who likes you now may not like you when he or she sees the real you.

3. Communicate effectively – Honesty and vulnerability is an important part of communication. Communicate from the heart. Let your partner know how you feel and what you need. Stating the facts as you see it, then express how the situation makes you feel. Finally, ask for what you want instead.

When you start a sentence with “you,” it sounds like an accusation or criticism. When it’s followed by the word, “always” or “never,” Then you are asking for an argument. Absolute words are problematic because as soon as it is stated, the other person stops listening, feels defensive, and begins to search their memory bank for a time that the accusation was not true. There will likely be at least one time that it was not true. If nothing comes to mind, the other person will still be triggered and will likely have a negative come-back remark which will then escalate into a full blown argument. Clearly, communication has broken down and it will be difficult to recover. 

4) Be kind to one another (a phrase Ellen DeGeneres uses daily) – Sometimes we are meaner and ruder to the people closest to us. It’s okay to feel comfortable and relaxed with your partner but there is no reason to be rude or thoughtless. There is a concept in couples counseling that has to do with how we respond to a play of engagement. For example, a woman tries to connect with her partner by bringing up an idea or stating an opinion. The partner has three possible reactions. He can turn towards her by responding in agreement or discussing the issue in an interested way. He can turn away from her by vehemently disagreeing or responding negatively. Or he can completely ignore her. Guess which response is most destructive? If you guessed the last one, you’d be right. Being ignored is sending a powerful message that the speaker is not even deserving of a response. This is also referred to as stonewalling. Stonewalling in a relationship is one of the horsemen discussed in John Gottman’s book, “The Four Horsemen.” The other three horsemen are criticism, contempt and defensiveness. When any of these attitudes are consistently expressed in a relationship there is a good chance the relationship will not last.

So in conclusion, there are four important things to remember when entering into a committed relationship and staying there: 1) Choose a suitable, like-minded partner not someone you think is exciting and impulsive when in reality they are a bit crazy and you want to tame them. 2) Be you, it’s a lot less work than trying to be someone else. 3) Say what you mean and mean what you say and don’t be mean. 4) Pay attention to how you treat people, especially the ones closest to you. Always strive to be kind even when the other person might not be.

The Yin and Yang of Marriage

The purpose of a wedding ceremony, especially a religious one, is to declare one’s love and commitment to one another in front of friends, family and God. That commitment is meant to be lifelong. As in, “Till death do us part.” In years gone by, that declaration was taken very seriously and people seldom got divorced. Perhaps miserable marriages were the cause of more murders and suicides but the divorce rate was lower than it is today. Or perhaps like the Meat Loaf lyric says, people might be, “praying for the end of time so I can end my time with you.”

Marriage is a beautiful thing when it works well. It works when two people are very compatible and happy with each other. They might challenge each other and support each other in growing and becoming their best selves. Sometimes people just know when a person is their perfect match and that is awesome. However, life changes and circumstances change and people change. Often that initial compatibility and love doesn’t last. Sometimes people want one thing at a certain point in life and later they want something else. Besides physical attraction, emotional, mental and spiritual compatibility, there is also common goals or support of the other’s goals. Common interests or openness to hearing about the other person’s interests. There is an understanding and a willingness to give the other person what they want in terms of their love language.

Another important aspect of marriage is the yin and yang of the relationship. The male and the female aspects. This does not always relate to female and male gender. Sometimes the woman in the relationship has more yang qualities and takes charge of most family decisions. That’s okay as long as the male is okay with that and willing to relinquish control. Even in homosexual relationships there is almost always one partner who has more male energy while the other has more female energy. Sometimes partners can take on one role in some situations and switch roles in other situations. It works so long as both people are on the same page.

It can be a deal breaker if both people compete for dominance in the relationship. Sometimes a very strong female can initially be viewed as confident and attractive to a male but after a while that same attractive quality can make the man feel emasculated. That feeling of powerlessness and impotence can really lead to sexual impotence and dysfunction. On the other hand, a female might be attracted to a caring, tender man who can show his emotions but after a while she starts to see him as weak. If she is feminine, soft and submissive, she will want a man who is dominant and who can take charge. She wants to feel safe and protected. The yin and the yang is a delicate balance that must be recognized and valued.

If the yin and yang balance is upset, can the marriage be saved? It might depend on how ingrained in the personality these qualities are. The difficulty comes when a highly assertive woman who projects Yang qualities is only attracted to strong men. The man would have to be ultra-macho to create enough of a contrast to the females’ strong nature. He might be very hard to find or he might be too aggressive and possibly abusive. In the other case a passive man would have to find a woman who is ultra-feminine and submissive. There are many gradients in the spectrum of femininity and masculinity. And sometimes people have to seek a partner from a different culture. It seems like the American culture has been gradually creating the ideal that the male or Yang is preferable to the female or the yin. These cultural messages can wreak havoc on the pairing of couples which just adds to the dissatisfaction in relationships and the high divorce rate.

What’s the solution? Like most problems, solutions begin with self-awareness and an understanding of the situation. The value of the feminine is increasing in terms of being heart-centered and nurturing but women are also encouraged to be strong and assertive and stand up for their rights. So the key is to be fluid in the roles we take on. A woman might be strong and powerful at work but she knows how to let that go when she gets home. Being feminine can be powerful because it helps her partner feel great about himself. He might feel more motivated to please his partner and take care of her needs and wants. A man might not have to change roles quite as much as a working woman but there is still more kindness and nurturing involved with being a father and a husband than in being an employee. Women are attracted to a man’s strength as well as his ability to care-for and protect her and her family.  If a woman is incapable or unwilling to take on the female role that her partner craves, the relationship will suffer. If a man feels weak, passive or scared of confrontation and his partner is looking for a strong man, the relationship will suffer. The choice is up to the individuals.